President Obama has been impersonated hundreds of times and Saturday Night Live has added another impersonator-in-chief into the mix. Last night’s season premiere featured Jay Pharaoh as Obama, a role that used to belong to Fred Armisen.
Jason Sudekis joined Pharoah in the skit as Mitt Romney and Taran Killam showed up as Paul Ryan. SNL also poked fun at Clint Eastwood’s infamous speech at the Republican National Convention.
Seth MacFaralane was the host of the show and participated in a couple of skits as well. Gangnam style, the dance craze started by rapper Psy, also made an appearance during one of the skits. Psy himself actually appeared to dance with MacFarlane and the SNL cast members.
Another highlight was a performance from singer Frank Ocean, who brought out John Mayer for a duet.
The nation has been suffering through the exceedingly unfunny and boring Obama impersonation done by white actor Fred Armisen, who has been playing the president since 2008. When Armisen was tapped to play Obama, more than anything it highlighted the fact that the show didn’t have any black male stars. When producer Lorne Michaels wanted to do a skit featuring Barack and Michelle, he would have a white man playing Obama and he would have to reach back and get Maya Rudolph to play Michelle.
Pharoah was added to the cast two years ago, and he was shown his remarkable talents at impersonation by doing black male celebrities like Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Jay-Z and Eddie Murphy. (Watch the video below to see his appearance on David Letterman, where he runs through his cast of characters—Obama is at the 7:00 minute mark.)
The SNL political skits have become an influential part of the American humor and political landscapes—so much that SNL even aired a special show featuring just its political skits. Will Ferrell became so popular playing George W. Bush that he brought the character to Broadway in a one-man show. Phil Hartman was classic as Bill Clinton—who can forget that oh-so-sincere biting of the lower lip? Amy Poehler was hilarious as the intense, hard-driving Hillary Clinton—she showed her actually dismantling the podium during one of her speeches when she was upset.
And the biggest SNL impersonation success to date has been Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. That one was so big that it likely catapulted Fey to her own NBC show, “30 Rock,” and made Palin even more popular than she already was—she even appeared on the show and mocked Fey’s mocking of her.